Sunday, December 7, 2008

Chicken Marsala, or, This Sauce is the Sh!t

Source: The New Best Recipe

Oh, MY. It has been YEARS since I've attempted a chicken marsala, mainly because the chicken is always decent, pretty good, but nothing mind-blowing. Usually you coat the chicken, cook it for a bit, then add in the marsala and mushrooms, which causes the coating the fall off.

However, my beef with chicken marsala is over. While I was busy trying to take a pretty pretty picture of the meal, my husband was eating, saying, "This is really good. No, this is REALLY good."

I am converted. I was slightly doubtful when I wasn't a huge fan of the sauce with my spaghetti and meatballs dinner version from TNBR, but this dish is pure heaven. The method of sauteing the chicken before putting in a warm oven while you make the sauce produced a delicious chicken that wasn't overbaked, and then topping with the sauce was just that much more amazing. Yum. This definitely goes on the MUST MAKE AGAIN list!

Chicken Marsala

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup of unbleached flour
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2 1/2 ounces pancetta, cut into 1 by 1/8 inch pieces (found in your "fancy" cheese and meat deli section)
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced (2 cups)
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 1/2 cups of Marsala
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves (which I just noticed, I completely forgot)

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position, place a large heatproof dinner plate on the rack, and heat the oven to 200 degrees.

2. Pat the chicken breasts dry. Place the flour in a shallow baking dish or pie plate. Season both sides of the chicken cutlets with salt and pepper to taste. Working with one cutlet at a time, coat both sides of the chicken with flour. Lift the breast from the tapered end and shake to remove excess flour; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Place the cutlets in a single layer in the skillet and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, turn cutlets and cook on the second side until golden brown and meat feels firm when pressed with a finger, about 3 more minutes. Transfer the chicken to the heated plate and return the plate to oven. (I just used a casserole dish.)

4. Set the skillet to low heat and add the pancetta. Saute, stirring occasionally and scraping the pan bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, until pancetta is browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to paper towels to drain.

5. Add the mushrooms to the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Saute, stirring occasionally and scraping the pan bottom, until the liquid released by the mushrooms evaporates and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste, and cooked pancetta and cook, stirring constantly, until the tomato paste begins to brown, about 1 minute. Off heat, add the marsala. Return the pan to high heat and simmer vigorously, scraping the browned bits from the pan bottom, until the sauce is slightly syrupy and reduced to 1 1/4 cups, about 5 minutes. Off heat, add the lemon juice and any accumulated juices from the chicken. Whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until incorporated. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.

It's very important to use UNSALTED butter in this recipe. The pancetta is pretty salty, and you'll also be seasoning the chicken with salt and pepper. I didn't add any additional seasonings once the sauce was done--I thought it was perfect on its own!

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